Bright Shiny Things: XNA Games

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If you followed Microsoft’s GDC press conference this week, you probably heard a little about their XNA service for the 360. XNA is a way for the community to create their own games, have their games reviewed by their peers, and then make them available for other 360 owners to download. Kind of like YouTube…but with games. If you’re interested in developing games via XNA, you can download XNA Game Studio 2.0 for free — though a paid membership to the XNA Creators club is also required ($49 for 4 months or $99 for 12 months). As I understand it, released XNA games would then be something you’d be able to purchase via Xbox Live.

Wait a minute, isn’t Bright Shiny Games all about trying things cool things on the cheap (and preferably free)??? Well, as announced during Microsoft’s keynote, there are seven XNA-developed demos available on Xbox Live. Some of the demos are relatively short, but you get enough time with each game to get a flavor of what they’re like. I’ve spent a few hours over the past few days playing them, and I’d recommend that anyone with Live do the same.

Of the games available, I’ve especially enjoyed playing Little Gamers, TriLinea, and The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. Little Gamers is a side-scroller that feels like South Park meets River City Ransom. At first it seemed a little slow, but the game’s variety in levels (zombies on one level, ninjas on another) kept me playing. I think there’s about six or seven stages that you can play in the demo. To learn more about the game and its creator, 24-year-old Loïc Dansartis of Belgium, click here.

TriLinea, a puzzle game created by three gamers in Brazil, also shows plenty of promise. So far I’ve spent my time playing Vs. mode, and it kind of reminds me of Puzzle Fighter. You frantically place down pieces that look like Dominoes and try to match colors to inflict damage on your opponent, while also attempting to match up symbols based on the spells that you pick before each match. The effects these spells cause vary, and they’re somewhat reminiscent of items you might use in a game of Mario Kart.

While I enjoyed checking out all the titles available, The Dish Washer: Dead Samurai stood out as the most appealing to me. The creator, James E. Silva, was actually was one of four winners in the 2007 XNA Dream-Build-Play contest…and I can see why. Dish Washer is a side-scroller that reminds me of playing the original Ninja Gaiden, but with attack schemes and finishing moves that more closely resemble what you’d find in a next-generation Ninja Gaiden game. Combine that with a dark story presented as a comic book, and you’ve got the makings of a winner. The demo for this one wasn’t that long, so I’m already anxious to play the whole thing.

Since the seven demos are only free for the next 15 days, I recommend you check them out ASAP. Who knows, they may even inspire you to work on your own project.

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